IPO48 Nairobi Startup Finalists 2011

I’m at the final pitches for the 2011 Nairobi IPO48 event that’s been happening non-stop over the last 2 days. This year it’s being held at the iHub, with 12 companies working through ideas, prototypes, business plans and finally an investment for the winner. In total, they’re offering:

  • 25.000€ (3.3m Ksh) in funding after 48 hours
  • Mentorship from serial entrepreneurs and professionals
  • Great media exposure for your startup
  • Find talented people that want to join your startup

If you want a quick rundown of who the 12 finalists are, and what their apps do, check out Afrinnovator’s writeup. You can also watch quick 1-minute videos on each of them on YouTube.

The 2011 Winner: Tusquee Systems with their SchoolSMS app (which also won their category at Pivot25)!

Runners Up Ghafla! and 6ix Degrees will win an additional 15k Euro investment (more on Afrinnovator).

Kenya Startup Events


It’s only 2 months since Pivot25 and now we’re on another startup event with Human IPO back in Nairobi for the second year. The Tandaa $690k startup grants for techies have gone out to 15 companies. We didn’t have any of these events going on. None.

This is important for a number of reasons:

  • Kenyan entrepreneurs are getting experience in pitching their ideas.
  • Techies are finding out the hard truths about themselves as business people, and that technology alone doesn’t make a business.
  • Local and international mentors are giving the entrepreneurs much needed insights and wisdom.
  • Investors and international media are being catered to, they’re getting a chance to see the Nairobi startup scene up close and personal.
  • Design is being taken a little more seriously (though a lot more needs to be done).
  • It brings an angel and early-stage investment mentality to Nairobi that hasn’t really existed before.

In short, we need to continue with local startup competitions. The more people who learn how to think through, build and pitch their ideas, the more likely we are to continue our upward growth in mobile and web innovation. It’s only by a lot of practice, lessons learned and hard knocks that we’ll see more success stories.

The finalists in these competitions represent a small percentage of the people who apply, but don’t make it. It’s a pure numbers game, where we’ll see the 10-15% succeed and most fail. Again, that’s okay, it’s how the startup game works.

We’re only half way up the mountain, and startup competitions are only part of the equation. There’s a lot more work to do if we want to see more success stories. Thus we need the whole technology community in East Africa to continue supporting the events and the people behind them, but also get involved in the startups themselves, whether for mentoring, business or investment.

Mobile Monday Takes Over the iHub

The only time I’ve ever seen an event have more people at the iHub is at the grand opening back in March, and Barcamp Nairobi over the summer. Today is Mobile Monday, an event that happens at the iHub about once per month, run by John Wesonga. It’s quickly becoming a big event to be at.

M-Farm

“Great ideas are always born on a tissue paper”

Jamila talks about the genesis of their idea, M-Farm: To bring farmers together to buy and sell together.

IPO48 put together a competition for Kenyan techpreneurs to pitch their ideas – the Akirachix won the 1,000,000 Ksh prize with the M-Farm idea.

How does it work?
Prices are found by information collection through crowdsourcing of that information from the farmers and by having people go out and find out the prices from the sellers as well, in locations all over Kenya.

Their goal is to give the farmer more information, through reports, to help the farmer make an informed decision on what to grow next. It’s a mixture of historical sales, predicted weather, and other information that would help them make a better decision. M-Farm works with the farmers cooperatives as well.

The unique thing about M-farm is the socialization of the farmers. It’s not just about information, it’s about the community.

Overlap

Limo Taboi and Kahenya are giving a presentation on overlapping, the term used by Kenyans when guys go into the wrong side of the road to pass others and cause a massive traction jam. Their new website is Overlap.co.ke.

“We have bad driving habits in Kenya.”

We’re trying to find a way for ordinary Kenyans to track eachother’s bad driving using the Ushahidi platform. This is everything from buses and matatus with no lights, to overlapping and reckless driving.

Right now it’s a citizen effort, but they’re hoping that one day the police will take note as well.

You can report in by submitting something to the website, by email in a report to overlap.kenya@gmail.com or using the #OverlapKE hashtag on Twitter.

Nokia Infrastructure Support

Nokia is a sponsor of tonight’s Mobile Monday. Agatha Gikunda is here to talk about the way Nokia is doing things in East and Southern Africa to engage with developers. They’re really trying to reach out to small businesses and developers to build more apps and services with Nokia software and for their handsets. Most of all, they want to help with the marketing of your new product, using the Nokia marketing infrastructure through partnerships.

One example of what they’re doing took place last week. They trained 25 developers in QT and Advanced Java at the University of Nairobi. 10 universities and key training institutions were engaged and participated in the training.

Another way they’re working with local developers and entrepreneurs is helping local app developers to market their product. Their example here is AfroHotorNot, an app that they go around and market at universities. Beyond local marketing, they also help you publish your work globally and make money off of your apps.

Other partners that Nokia has helped market globally, beyond Kenya are Sharper Innovations (LSU, Afrohotornot and Wazzup), Symbiotic Media (Tusker Project Fame and Daily Nation Media) and Shimba Technologies (Tuvitu App and MTV Music Awards app).

To get paid, Nokia takes 30% and pays out 70% to the developer. You have to have a local bank account to get paid directly, and the money is released once you reach around 100 Euros. There isn’t a really good way to get paid in Kenya, but they’re trying to get a deal with local mobile operators for operator billing to happen.

About 30 apps have been created by Kenyan devs for the Ovi Store. About 99% of those are local focused, only 3 are focused on the global market.

Agatha was asked about when they’ll have local billing integration. The answer is that they’re trying but they don’t know when it’ll happen.

To get started with the Nokia Ovi Store, go to publish.Ovi.com.

Safaricom and Innovation

“I tell my colleagues that you need to get off that ivory tower and start sitting with everyone. See what ticks.”

– Nzioki Waita, Head of Strategy and New Business at Safaricom

ICT is going to make the next 500k jobs in Kenya, and Safaricom plans to be on the forefront of that. He goes on to talk about how Safaricom is trying to be more friendly to smaller organizations and entrepreneurs in the country. You used to be able to predict with some certainty the types of value added services that would work. Now, enter the smartphone and data connections, and your phone is now a vehicle to a new destination. Life became more complex to us.

We now get people walking into our office saying “I have an idea, it will make money for both of us.” The people they were coming to talk to weren’t set up to take on these kinds of ideas. This made them form a “new products” division where Mpesa and the VAS team’s are seated.

They’ve moved away from the stages where you’d walk in with an idea and then you’d never hear from Safaricom again. Now they have to deal with the ideas, and they’re trying to understand a better way to do that (see my post on the Safaricom Innovation Board). They’re trying to figure out how to channel it.

What Safaricom is doing:

  • SDP (Service Delivery Platform) plus and App store launching at the same time.
  • Safaricom Academy (with Strathmore Univ). A way to get young innovators working on their ideas with training.
  • Incubation Centre. A small space within Safaricom to incubate ideas on their infrastructure
  • The Safaricom Innovation Board – A group who helps set policy and buffers devs from Safaricom and vice versa.
  • The Safaricom Garage – a place for devs to come and work on a portion of the Safaricom network (location based services, billing, etc.)

Nzioki won’t discuss revenue share, unfortunately. Too bad, they need to be a lot more open about the money side of this equation, otherwise it will be perceived as the same old Safaricom.

John Waibochi of Virtual City

Virtual City is also a sponsor for the Mobile Monday event, and John Waibochi, the CEO is here. Virtual City recently won the $1m Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge about 3 months ago.

Barcamp Nairobi this Weekend

It’s that time of year again, so I hope all of you Nairobian techies, bloggers and programmers are ready for Barcamp Nairobi. [Twitter: @BarcampNairobi]

Barcamp Nairobi will take place at the iHub and NaiLab, starting at 9am on Saturday June 12th and going late into the night. It keeps going on Sunday with WhereCamp Africa, so all you geo/mapping geeks get ready.

As usual, those who get in early will get a Barcamp t-shirt, until they’re all gone.

Register here. There are already about 300 planning to attend.

A Barcamp Primer

Barcamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from participants who are the main actors of the event.”

Those who haven’t been to a Barcamp need to understand something: You make the event. It’s a very democratic event, it doesn’t matter if you’re the Permanent Secretary of a university student, if you have something people want to hear, you’ll have a chance to sign up for a time and room to talk in, and people will vote with their feet on whether or not they like your topic.

We start the morning off with a session where everyone gets a chance to put forward their topic and then sign up for a time and room. The day then begins, and it’s a madhouse of great talks and even better people and connections. Food and snacks are provided, and the new iHub coffee shop is open for you to buy your caffeinated drinks all day long. :)

Potential Topcis

  • Using my (GPS Enabled) cell phone to avoid traffic
  • Cloud Computing Applications in Kenya
  • Business Skills for Techies
  • Rural ICT
  • ICT initiatives for youth
  • Mobile Application Development
  • Using Google Fusion Tables
  • Web design, and why it’s not as good as it should be in Kenya
  • Hardware hacking
  • Tips and tricks for internet connectivity around Nairobi
  • Merging mobile and electronic commerce concepts
  • Walking-papers.org: openstreetmapping without a GPS
  • Drupal, WordPress, Joomla and other CMS hacks

Get your talk ready!

Map & Directions

The iHub is on the 4th floor of the Bishop Magua Centre, directly opposite Uchumi Hyper on Ngong Road.


View iHub – Nairobi’s Innovation Hub in a larger map

It’s hard to believe it’s been 2 years since we last did this, letting 2009 slip by us… I’m really glad we’re doing this in 2010 and happy that Ushahidi is sponsoring it, as well as the iHub providing the space!

Nairobi Hackers Descend Upon the iHub

I’m sitting at the iHub this morning, after just having given my welcome to the 40+ Nairobian hackers who have descended upon the place. They’re here to take part in the global Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) hackathon to develop tech solutions to pressing needs in crisis and disaster response.

It should come as no surprise that Nairobi’s technorati are well-versed in mobile solutions, that’s quickly becoming a competitive advantage in this city. So far we have groups coming up with solutions for amputee registration via SMS and USSD, An SMS solution to create distress texts, improvements to people finder apps and tracking of mobile payments.

Keep up to speed

This event goes through Sunday afternoon, it’s a full 36 hour hackathon. Watch as the devs in Kenya work with their counterparts in Australia, Indonesia, Brazil, the US and UK. Keep an eye out on the above resources to see what comes out of Africa!

RHoK Nairobi, Kenya